Model Engine Maker

Help! => Machines, Tools and Fixtures => Topic started by: jclouden on October 30, 2018, 11:55:04 PM

Title: Unimat-SL Opinions
Post by: jclouden on October 30, 2018, 11:55:04 PM
I currently have finished 2 model engines using my PM1030 lathe and while I have managed to complete some very small parts by making a lot of jigs I have been giving some thought of acquiring a smaller lathe for the smallest parts.  There is a Unimat-SL model DB200 available here and I would like to know if anyone has an opinion on the quality and suitability of this lathe for model engine work.
Title: Re: Unimat-SL Opinions
Post by: b.lindsey on October 31, 2018, 12:36:52 AM
Jon, it will depend on it's condition, but the old unimats we're well made machines. I currently have a unimat 2, and it, like the Cowells and sherline are great for small parts but not ideal for larger parts obviously. If it's in good shape and reasonably priced, it could be a useful addition to your shop.

Title: Re: Unimat-SL Opinions
Post by: gerritv on October 31, 2018, 01:32:58 AM
My first lathe was a Unimat SL. At the very worst, you will love it as a small accurate drill press. It is of course capable of much more, as evidenced by some of Rudy Kouhoupt's creations. The headstock feed is particularly useful for repetitive work.

Rudy produced much of his Fore and Aft Compound Engine on a Unimat SL/DB
Title: Re: Unimat-SL Opinions
Post by: Mcgyver on October 31, 2018, 01:59:16 AM
I'll tip toward blunt honesty vs strained decorum :)

I got my first db200 or whatever they are when I was 12.  For a 12 year old, friggin awesome.  I had a lot of fun with it.  I still have a unimat, a U3 (which is a substantial upgrade imo in that it has V ways) so I have a soft spot for them. 

Having said that, you've got a small lathe with so much more capability than a db200 that I would not recommend it.  The are so light and low powered I don't know when you'd ever pick it over your other lathe.  I've got I think 15 lathes at the moment, and if one was a db200 it would be the last one I'd go do.  I have great respect for someone who sticks to it long enough to make something with it, I suppose I would too if its all I had....but fortunately its not all you have. 

On the plus side I agree with gerritv, the drill press is good for a small stuff and the three jaw is of excellent quality (probably close to the quality you'd get with a watchmakers 3 jaw).....but the thought of spending days cranking on the little handwheel taking a few thou per pass makes me shiver.  I probably have bought so many lathes as some sort of subconscious wall building to make sure I never have to again lol

Looking at the size of the PM1030, what are finding are the challenges on these small parts and what are the small parts like that its frustrating with?  If you are making really small parts, maybe consider a watchmakers lathe?....that's a whole new world of fun

This all assumes market prices.....a smoking hot deal can trump the above :)  .

Title: Re: Unimat-SL Opinions
Post by: Zephyrin on October 31, 2018, 09:23:25 AM
I also had a SL unimat as a first lathe, I loved it, I did a lot of steam engine, up to a Stuart D10, the centre height being too small for turning the base, I had to increase the swing with a plate under the headstock...
it is really tiny (at large !) it is the main drawback.
the motor was a true junk and had to be replaced by a decent one, allowing continuous work.

I now have a BV20 like everybody and a little Toyo, so I sold it for a good price, it is also a good investment too !
Title: Re: Unimat-SL Opinions
Post by: Jasonb on October 31, 2018, 10:20:04 AM
I have my first lathe a U3 sitting in a cupboard but never felt the need to get it out for small parts I just use my equivalent to a PM1127 for all my turning

I made a Stuart 10V on it but the bigger lathe is far easier and quicker to use.
Title: Re: Unimat-SL Opinions
Post by: Vixen on October 31, 2018, 11:56:50 AM
Like a few other forum members, I also started with a SL Unimat and later a Unimat 3 to built a Stuart 10.  However like many other, I found I could make all the small parts much more conveniently on a larger lathe. The small Unimats are well made but just too small, lacking in rigidity, spindle power and just too fussy to use. The 1.0 mm pitch lead-screws and the tiny handwheels provide their own challenge. Better to go for a slightly larger machine.

The one good feature of the SL is the quill feed, which is ideal for use as a small precision drill press.

 :Director:  :Director: If the price is right, I would use the SL only as a miniature drill press.

Title: Re: Unimat-SL Opinions
Post by: gerritv on October 31, 2018, 12:13:33 PM
Jon, do you have a collet chuck on your larger lathe? That makes all the difference for me on my 1022. Also variable speed so that switching between diameters/sfm's is not a constant compromise or hassle with belt changes.

For weird parts I plan to add a fixture plate to my faceplate, provides more clamping options for those smaller pieces.

Title: Re: Unimat-SL Opinions
Post by: Graham Meek on October 31, 2018, 02:50:25 PM
The SL was my first lathe, long since gone but a good starting point. I currently use an Emco Compact 5 for small work. Mainly because the spindle is higher than on my Maximat and I do not have to stoop so much.

My best regards
Title: Re: Unimat-SL Opinions
Post by: steam guy willy on October 31, 2018, 03:18:07 PM
I have a unimat and i find the quill feed quite useful as i do all the turning with the headstock extended to its stop.  I then use the quill to take the work back when i need to measure the work or quickly/ roughly remove stock. this saves continually having to wind the saddle back and forth with the fiddly hand wheels ...I do find the lathe very rigid though

Title: Re: Unimat-SL Opinions
Post by: jclouden on November 02, 2018, 02:30:22 PM
I really appreciate all the responses to this.  My take from your comments are that the Unimat is pretty good quality but is so small that it is awkward to use and that I would probably be better off to continue to make small part jigs for my PM1030.  Some examples of this would be 3/16" square stock for my PMR1 valve train universal joint and valves for my Odd 'n Ends hit & miss engine (3/8" head, 1/8" shaft).

I do not have a collet chuck for my lathe but I have it pretty well equipped otherwise (3 & 4 jaw, faceplate, steady rests, tailstock DRO, HSS & carbide tooling, etc.).

With that said, I will go and take a look at the Unimat here next week and who knows?  Might be one of those things I just can't pass up.

Thanks again everyone,

Title: Re: Unimat-SL Opinions
Post by: Thor on November 02, 2018, 03:06:47 PM
Hi Jon,

 I have had a Unimat SL for some decades, a bit on the small side for most of the work I do so I am using the spindle as a toolpost grinder or the spindle and vertical column  in my tiny tool and cutter grinder (

Title: Re: Unimat-SL Opinions
Post by: Roger B on November 02, 2018, 05:55:02 PM
If the price is right a second, smaller, lathe is always useful  :)